Are you plagued by Internal Revenue Service (IRS) inquiries you just don't understand? Do you face an immediate threat of adverse action by the IRS that you don't know how to handle? The California Society of CPAs (www.calcpa.org) recommends that you go to the Taxpayer Advocate Service (TAS) for help. Although it's affiliated with the IRS, the TAS provides independent, objective assistance to taxpayers who cannot resolve IRS-related problems.
The Role of the Taxpayer Advocate Service
The TAS helps taxpayers solve problems with the IRS and recommends preventative measures for the future. Based on the problems encountered, the TAS encourages revisions to tax law that can help reduce the burden on taxpayers and improve IRS effectiveness.
Every state and IRS service center has at least one local Taxpayer Advocate (TA) whose goal is to protect individual taxpayer rights and reduce taxpayer burdens. Generally, this person is not an IRS employee.
Who Qualifies to Use this Service?
Before seeking the assistance of a Taxpayer Advocate, you must first attempt to resolve your tax issue through normal IRS processes. Generally, you can qualify for Taxpayer Advocate assistance if you meet one of the following criteria:
- You are suffering, or about to suffer, a significant hardship.
- You are facing an immediate threat of adverse action by the IRS.
- You will incur significant cost (including fees for professional representation if relief is not granted).
- You will suffer irreparable injury or long-term adverse impact if relief is not granted.
- You have experienced a delay of more than 30 days to resolve the issue.
- You have not received a response or resolution by the date promised.
Exceptions to the Rule
Keep in mind that the Taxpayer Advocate Service cannot reverse legal or technical tax determinations. Also, they will not address complaints or inquiries regarding the constitutionality of the tax system. Additionally, they will not get involved in cases where the taxpayer is solely trying to avoid filing or paying federal taxes.
How to Contact the Taxpayer Advocate Service
To locate the TAS in your area, call toll free, 1-877-777-4778 or download Publication 1546 (http://ftp.fedworld.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p1546.pdf), which lists office locations by state. You also can make a TA request by completing and submitting Form 911 (Application for Taxpayer Assistance) by fax or mail to your local Taxpayer Advocate. You can download Form 911 at http://ftp.fedworld.gov/pub/irs-pdf/f911 or request a copy by calling the IRS forms-only number at 1-800-829-3676.
What Should I Expect from the Taxpayer Advocate?
You will be assigned a personal advocate who will listen to your point of view and work with you to address your problem. Typically, you can discuss your issue by telephone. You should ask for the TA's badge number and record the date and time of the call. In addition, jot down any important notes from your conversation and, to be safe, send a follow-up memo to the IRS outlining the particulars of your conversation.
The TA will request your name, address, Social Security number, phone number, any information related to your situation, and the IRS office that you originally dealt with. You also will need to provide the type of tax return filed and the year(s) involved.
Once you exchange information, it's up to the Taxpayer Advocate to get back to you. The TA will update you on the progress of your case, provide you with timeframes for action, and strive to resolve your case quickly.
If he doesn't concur with you or if you still owe the IRS tax dollars, your TA will help you negotiate a settlement or payment schedule with the IRS that won't financially strap you.
In upcoming years, the TAS plans to enhance its services and develop new resources to assist taxpayers. Don't hesitate to speak with your CPA if you feel you can benefit from the help of a Taxpayer Advocate.